Florida sued over law preventing Chinese citizens and other foreigners from buying property

A group of Chinese citizens living and working in the southern US state of Florida sued the state on Monday over a new law banning Chinese nationals from buying property in large swaths of the state .

The law applies to properties located within 10 miles of military installations and other “critical infrastructure” and also affects citizens of Cuba, Venezuela, Syria, Iran, Russia and North Korea. But Chinese citizens and those who sell goods to them face the harshest penalties. The ban also applies to agricultural land.

The American Civil Liberties Union says the law will have a substantial deterrent effect on sales to Chinese and Asians who can legally buy property. The lawsuit says the law unfairly equates Chinese people with their government’s actions and says there is no evidence of national security risks from Chinese citizens buying property in Florida.

The law “will codify and expand housing discrimination against people of Asian descent in violation of the Constitution and the Fair Housing Act,” the ACLU said in a press release announcing the lawsuit. “It will also cast an undue burden of suspicion on anyone looking to purchase property that sounds remotely Asian, Russian, Iranian, Cuban, Venezuelan or Syrian in name.”

US-China relations are strained amid growing tensions over security and trade. In nearly a dozen state and congressional houses, a decades-old concern over foreign land ownership has grown since a Chinese spy balloon streaked across the skies from Alaska to South Carolina last month. last.

Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is expected to launch a presidential campaign this week, signed the bill May 8. His office did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

The law is expected to come into force on July 1. Under the new regulations, it will be a crime for Chinese people to buy property in restricted areas or for any real estate person or company to knowingly sell to restricted people. For the other nationals concerned, the sanction is an offense for buyers and sellers.

It applies to land near military installations as well as land near infrastructure such as airports and seaports, water and wastewater treatment plants, natural gas processing facilities and petroleum, power stations, spaceports and central telecommunications switching offices.

The ACLU says the law “will have the net effect of creating ‘China exclusion zones’ that will cover huge portions of Florida, including many of the state’s most densely populated and developed areas.”

“This impact is exactly what laws like the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the California Alien Lands Act of 1913 did over a hundred years ago,” the lawsuit states.

People on the shortlist who already own property near critical infrastructure must register with the state or face fines of up to $1,000 per day. They are also prohibited from acquiring additional property. The law contains provisions allowing the state to seize the property of offenders.

The number of states restricting foreign ownership of farmland has increased by 50% this year.

As 2023 approaches, 14 states have laws restricting foreign ownership or investment in private farmland. So far this year, restrictive laws have also been enacted in Arkansas, Idaho, Montana, Tennessee, Utah and Virginia.

Foreign land ownership has become “a political flashpoint,” said Micah Brown, an attorney at the National Agricultural Law Center at the University of Arkansas.

Brown said the recent increase in state laws targeting land ownership by foreign entities stemmed from some high-profile cases of China-linked companies buying land near military bases. Earlier this year, the US Air Force said the Fufeng Group’s $700 million wet corn milling plant near a base in Grand Forks, North Dakota posed a “significant threat to national security”.

After a Chinese military veteran and real estate mogul bought a wind farm near an Air Force base in Texas, that state responded in 2021 by banning infrastructure deals with individuals linked to hostile governments, including China.

USA voanews

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